38578 Strategies Used to Develop FDA's First Multicultural Teen Tobacco Prevention Campaign

Brandon Tate, MBA, Client Services Department, Rescue | The Behavior Change Agency, San Diego, CA, Ashley Smith, BS, Office of Health Communication & Education, Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products and Dina Weldin, BA, Rescue | The Behavior Change Agency, Washington, DC


“Peer crowds” are defined as the macro-level connections between peer groups with similar interests, lifestyles, influencers, and habits. While a teen/young adult has a local peer group that he/she socializes with, he/she and his/her peer group belong to a larger “peer crowd” that shares significant cultural similarities across cities and even states. Through research with various health departments, Rescue has found that peer crowd affiliation is a better predictor of socially motivated risk behaviors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, than demographics alone.

This session will present peer crowd campaign principles, why more advanced audience segmentation is critical to behavior change, and how these strategies can effectively be applied across traditional, digital, social, and interactive media and local outreach to develop an effective integrated health communication campaign.

Program background: 

Research shows that nearly 5 million multicultural youth are open to smoking or are already experimenting with cigarettes. To address this challenge, Rescue has collaborated with public health organizations to demonstrate the efficacy of applying a social peer crowd approach to a youth tobacco prevention campaign.

Evaluation Methods and Results: 

Teens who identify with the Hip Hop peer crowd are approximately 50 percent more likely to use tobacco than average multicultural youth. Focus group research with Hip Hop youth has exposed the need for a tailored and targeted campaign that embodies the unique values and lifestyles of multicultural teens. From this, Rescue created a public education campaign to prevent and reduce tobacco use among at-risk multicultural youth ages 12-17 who identify with the Hip Hop peer crowd. In addition to musical taste, the Hip Hop peer crowd also includes all teens influenced by the attitudes, values and norms of Hip Hop culture.

Rescue’s social branding campaigns are evaluated through a multi-year, study designed to measure the effectiveness of the campaign in affecting specific attitudes and behaviors related to tobacco use. Insights from the focus groups along with extensive literature and subject matter expert reviews were used to inform development of innovative messaging for the campaign.


Just as peer crowds are known to influence clothing style and music preferences, they’re also proven to influence behaviors, including potentially risky and unhealthy behaviors.  If these campaigns are rooted in a deep understanding of the peer crowd, identify cultural insights, strategically focus on media usage for maximum impact and hone communication styles that resonate with hard-to-reach populations, impactful change and effective results are more likely to surface.

Implications for research and/or practice: 

Peer crowd segmentation will help researchers and practitioners better understand their audiences so that they are able to leverage their target population's interests and insights to deliver a targeted, culturally relevant, and cost-effective health behavior change campaign.